Recently one of my soulfriendships ended -- not in the usual way of intimate relationships (fighting and fury), but by recognising that we were not in the right place in our lives to continue such a deep relationship. I think it is a testament to the beauty of soulfriendship that it can end gracefully, without severing the connection. I am still recovering from the loss, but I learned so incredibly much through the experience. I have refined the old definition to this:
- Love & Affection.
To me, these are different aspects that go hand in hand. Love is the recognition that the other person has incalculable worth, which can never change -- it is seeing the sacred self in someone, and feeling the bond that connects us all. Affection is a positive feeling that the other person creates in you (and vice versa) by doing/saying positive things for/to you. Love starts the relationship; affection fuels it. (my in-depth post on the topic)
I used to call this aspect 'permanence' but have since realized it is more complex than that. I believe that two healthy people can overcome any obstacle -- but sometimes we are wounded by things we cannot control, and all of our best efforts are not enough. So this aspect I now call 'commitment' -- meaning that both people will do their absolute best to overcome obstacles that keep them from maintaining the soulfriendship. Sometimes one or both will not be able to do enough, but they will try with every resource they have until they can do no more. Also included in this is willingness to forgive; in an intimate relationship you will be hurt, and for commitment to have meaning it has to survive that hurt through forgiveness.
I define trust as willing to take the risk of hurting or being hurt. It's a faith that the relationship will survive failings on the part of either person. It's the other half of commitment: the belief that not only are YOU committed, but the other person is also; not only will YOU forgive, but the other person will also.
I define honesty as a refusal to deceive. Honesty is answering any question with the truth (the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), without trying to hide anything. You don't have to phrase things rudely to tell the truth, but even with the gentlest phrasing, the truth may offend or hurt. Still, I believe that the kind of hurt the truth may bring is like the sting of disinfectant on a wound -- it hurts but does not damage, and is ultimately healing.
Openness is the other half of honesty; it is the willingness to share truth. To be open is to offer yourself, to place your truth into the hands of those willing to receive instead of waiting for them to ask. We are such complex creatures that no one could ever learn us fully by asking questions -- we have to share of our own volition.
- Inclusion. (communication and decision-making)
There's no set time on how much or how often you communicate, but it needs to be frequent enough that both people have a good understanding of what is going on in the other person's life. On the important decisions in your life, include the other person -- they know you so well and care so much that their advice is very valuable. Consider how your decisions affect them; in an intimate relationship, what helps them helps you and vice versa.
- Desire to Grow.
This is absolutely necessary in a soulfriendship, though non-committed friendships can do fine without it. In a soulfriendship you are constantly balancing yourself against the other, constantly giving and receiving -- in constant flux. If you do not change, you will end up out of step with the other person, a gap that will only increase with time. If you backtrack you will end out of step even faster -- so the only way to stay connected is for both people to be growing, or changing positively. There are many ways to do this; counseling (I firmly believe that every single person in this broken world needs at least some mentor-type guidance), self-education, art, giving help to others, spiritual exploration... the important thing is that this aspect is never-ceasing. Sometimes you will only have energy for a small amount of growth, and sometimes the best way to grow is through a period of deliberate hibernation (with a limited time span), but it must be a conscious goal for soulfriendship to flourish.
I define this as the willingness to sacrifice your time, energy, and other resources in order to help the other person. Going out of your way, doing unpleasant or difficult things for the sake of the other person. It should be balanced between your resources and the other person's need; draining yourself can harm you and the relationship, but every once in a long while, it is necessary to pour yourself out for the other person. Then at another time ze will do the same for you.
myself and my former soulfriend Hannah;
I feel this illustrates soulfriendship perfectly.
LJ idol topic 7: "My Best Friend" ((going with this one! will add voting link thursday))